Ghana exit at a familiar stage
The pre-tournament feeling on Ghana was that, placed in the tougher section of the draw, they would have to work harder than ever to maintain their biennial semi-final bare minimum. And, more than ever, they have had to work hard to get to this stage, with tight unconvincing 1-0 wins over Uganda and Mali and then a loss to Egypt.
Having progressed from Group D, albeit as runners-up, and then beaten a confident DR Congo side in the quarters, the more difficult work, at least on paper, was out of the way. Although they sneaked to the semi-final, dismantling Cameroon should have been the easy, routine part for Africa’s most tournament-primed team of the last decade. In that sense, tonight they have fallen at the hands of a team few expected they would succumb to. This ranks as badly as their semi-final defeat in 2012 to Zambia. They lost to a team they shouldn’t have lost to.
Cameroon and Broos deserve the plaudits
All the absentees, the likes of Allan Nyom, Joel Matip and others, will now be looking on with a rueful smile. Perhaps, to use the words of Garth Crooks, they have done the team a favour – by not being there, at least it’s meant they’re not playing half-heartedly or with one eye on their return to club football. This Cameroon side have by no means been spectacular but this is a heartwarming story for Broos’ motley crew, showing what can be done when you defend as a team and make the most of your opportunities.
Given the opposition, this was their best performance of the tournament so far, especially in the opening half hour where they looked the likeliest side to open the scoring if only for the fact that Robert Tambe was their main striker. If you believe that these tournaments are won by the teams that peak at the right time, then Cameroon are definitely looking marginally better game by game, with Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui and Adolphe Teikeu playing a major role at the heart of defence tonight. Could the Indomitable Lions crown it all with a big performance in the final?
Grant didn’t deserve more than this
It would have been a travesty for Avram Grant to win an AFCON. Having chosen to largely base himself in Europe and jet into Ghana for qualifiers, it would have set a dangerous precedence for future expat coaches, especially high profile ones, to succeed in such a manner. And like in 2015, had his side gone on to win it would have been in spite of him rather than because of him.
While you can accuse expat coaches like Michel Dussuyer and Alain Giresse of being just as average as Grant, what you can’t accuse them of is not caring. When they coach countries they base themselves in their respective countries, even take charge of the local-based national side in the case of Dussuyer, watch the local league and try to immerse themselves in the culture. Grant’s detached approach never won him admirers even when results were forthcoming, and when the results started to take the turn for the worse the criticism was bound to amplify.
Grant’s Ghana years have been a waste
For two years he has gone through the motions, backed by a cheerleading agent that smoothes his failures and over-states minor successes. All things considered, Ghana, on the pitch, are not anywhere better than they were two years ago when Grant took over. At AFCON 2015, having taken over shortly before the tournament, Grant may have argued it was too soon to implement his ideas, but there has been no improvement over the last two years.
There is no identity. There is no style. And confidence has plunged to its lowest. The team often looks stale, especially in the centre of midfield where Mubarak Wakaso and Afriyie Acquah struggled to find the killer pass tonight or, in the case of the former, often over-cooked it. Breaking down well-organised opposition in the last 12 months has been a chore. Ghana have regressed under Grant’s watch and their chances of making the 2018 World Cup, after a poor start, are looking slim. These two years will be remembered as ones that went to waste.